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Title: Saturday Night at the Movies : Saturday Night Live, Star Comedians and Contemporary Hollywood
Author: Whalley, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2686 5037
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2008
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The subject of this thesis is the role of television programme Saturday Night Live (or SNL) in launching the careers of a significant number of Hollywood film stars over the last three decades. Started in 1975, SNL is a 90-minute comedy variety show broadcast live by the American television network NBC. Since its inception, it has employed regular casts of performers to present comic sketches. Several cast members, including John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal and Adam Sandler, have converted their exposure on the show into film stardom. In exploring the nature of SNL stars' appeal to Hollywood's filmmakers and audiences, the thesis primarily engages in two areas of debate. Firstly, it seeks to continue historicising what has been termed the "comedian comedy tradition" in Hollywood film. It has been noted that the Hollywood film industry has repeatedly turned to comic performers from other media with already well-defined, popular extra-fictional personas for use as star attractions. Certain consistencies have been found in the industry's approach to converting comedians' appeals for presentation within narrative fiction. However, approaches are also affected by historically specific industrial and social factors. I argue that the stars of SNL were instrumental to the development of a new variant of the comedian comedy tradition. Secondly, I suggest that the most important factor in explaining the nature of SNL's influence is shifts in social and cultural values in America since the 1960s. The personas of SNL stars I examine reflect trends in American public opinion connected to generational change. SNL has now employed cast members from across the baby boom generation (those born between 1943 and 1964) and Generation X (1965 to 1982). To consider the impact of generational factors, my analysis is centred around two case studies, the careers of Bill Murray and Adam Sandler.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available